Kasja Alger, left, Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger hope to entice the next generation of Huntington Library visitors with their food at Freshwater Dumpling and Noodle House.EXPAND
Kasja Alger, left, Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger hope to entice the next generation of Huntington Library visitors with their food at Freshwater Dumpling and Noodle House.
Bart Nagel

For International Women's Day, Susan Feniger and Kajsa Alger Share What Inspires Their Menu Choices

We associate Susan Feniger with the Border Grill brand and modern Mexican cuisine. Together with partner Mary Sue Milliken, she built an empire that includes food trucks and booming restaurants in Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

It was a 1985 road trip to Mexico in a VW bug that inspired the two Food Network stars, and the rest became restaurant history. They helped changed the culinary landscape of Los Angeles. Now Feniger has turned her focus on a new cuisine — Chinese. She opened Freshwater Dumpling and Noodle House at the Huntington Library in San Marino with partner Kajsa Alger in 2016.

In celebration of International Women’s Day, which is March 8, Feniger and Alger tell us what inspires them.

“What an incredible trip I had to China in October. Every morning, before we started our day of meetings, I went with some of our local friends to either their favorite street stand, tiny diner or street market,” Feniger tells L.A. Weekly. “My favorite was the market in Fuzhou, where we went for breakfast in the pouring rain. I remember one particular stall, which seems so simple but WOW — fried potatoes, crispy shallots and garlic with spices, chili paste, cilantro and vinegar. It inspired me to come back and think about dishes we might do in the cold winters at the Huntington that I know people would love.”

“There’s nothing more exciting than to see the foods of your childhood, of your mother and grandmother, brought to life in a way that honors them all,” Alger says. “The amazing textures, scents and serenity of the [Huntington's] Chinese Garden are endless inspirations. How do you showcase all of it in a few simple dishes? Stay humble and give little tastes of what make this complex cuisine so great.”

Freshwater Dumpling and Noodle House will be a featured attraction at L.A. Weekly's Essentials event at the California Market Center on Sunday, March 25. On the menu? A mix of traditional (spicy chaoshou wontons) and modern (Chinese citrus salad) and lychee lemonade (possibly spiked…).

To celebrate International Women's Day, we're offering a special discount code, IWD99 — grab some friends and use it to get up to $40 off for a group up to four people. It's valid March 8-12.

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